From Orlando we headed down to Miami. Our goal was to visit the three national parks of south Florida and we found an absolute gem of a campground. I would go back to this one over and over and we just might. The weather was sunny and warm- gorgeous for visiting Miami Beach, snorkeling and exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo (on my 35th birthday- how cool is that!), Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. The kids earned Junior Ranger badges at all 3 parks and have sent away for their South Florida National Parks patch indicating as much. The badges are no small feat for such small fries but it’s a great opportunity for us to learn as a family and for the kids to work toward their goal of having a souvenir from each national park that we visit.
On our travels there are also many days that we hang around the parks and play. Our older neighbor asked if she could take the kids’ picture on this day. There was some fierce princess and knight stuff going on.
We had the pleasure of meeting two cousins of mine for the first time during our Miami stay! What a wild adventure that we can spend time with so many people that we may never have met otherwise- including family! Lloyd and Leighton are 1/2 Cuban and were delighted to share their cultural heritage with us. We ate some pretty darned amazing food. The kids still talk about how much they like Cuban sandwiches! The significant difference in our ages (I am 13 and 15 years older than they, respectively) led to some very interesting conversations about dreams, life, histories, passions, and experiences. I was quite taken aback by their similarities in mannerisms, humor, and pensive nature to our grandfather with whom I was very close but they didn’t have the opportunity to get to know well. There’s just something about family.
On a day when parking was not to be had for Miami Beach (we drove around for over an hour searching), we headed to the Miami Children’s Museum. Our disappointment here was twofold in retrospect. We didn’t find anything interesting or well-maintained about this museum and it seems that we may be outgrowing most of the exhibits at children’s museums anyway. Glad we recently found the list of the science and technology museums that are also included in our Association of Children’s Museum membership! Check out what’s included. You can get a reciprocal membership from your local (traveling families- make sure it’s your local museum- it matters that your ID address match the location on your museum card) children’s or science and technology museum and be a roving connoiseur as well!
Association of Children’s Museums reciprocal museum program brochure
Association of Science and Technology Centers travel passport program
The Art Deco style of downtown Miami is funky and cool. The palm trees, bronzed bikini bodies, and bicycles give it a sultry, smokin’ hot flair. Being there definitely felt like a vacation.
In order to take in Big Cypress National Preserve at close range, we moved the RV into one of their campgrounds at Monument Lake for a few days. We had it on good authority from our traveling friends, The Lundy 5, that, although Monument had no electricity or water to offer our RV, it did have a cell tower right across the lake. That’s the only thing we need! Chris can work and we can boondock to our hearts’ content. The first night the kids were playing Wii Rock Band, Chris was working on the desktop computer at his desk, and I was cooking a grand meal. We laughed at how decadent ‘dry’ camping is. The only differences for us are keeping an eye on our coach batteries and enlisting the RV generator occasionally for a refresh and limiting our grey water usage to ensure that we don’t fill our tank before we’re ready to move on- packing up to dump is a real hassle.
One of our goals was to take a canoe trip as a family which we did out of the Everglades City visitor center of the Everglades. We paddled what felt like a giant WWII metal battleship the one mile mainland to Sandfly Island. Holy cow, it was hard. The wind blew us off course continually, we paddled against the tide all the way there, and there was recuping of patience needed on all accounts at different points on the journey. The hike around the island itself was so cool! It is aptly named, though, and we don’t generally use bug repellant so there was a lot of itching and slapping! Despite our difficulties we would do it again- next time in kayaks like the ones that were gliding by us like we were anchored.
One of the most compelling pieces of these national parks has been living with respect for animals. It really changed our perspectives- even as people who honor and love the Earth and those with whom we share it. It stuck with me how ‘advanced’ societies live not only without regard for surrounding animal life but as though it’s a mere interference- relocating and killing animals that are deemed threatening or a nuisance to everyday life. In the parks, we are visitors and this is their land. What a switch! What I liked the most? That humans couldn’t betray this because the alternative to respecting the animals was to lose a limb or a life. Alligators have the run of the place and, with understanding of their behaviors, we were welcome and safe visitors. I love when we’re held accountable by natural consequences. So often, there are fences and rules and guards. It has taken away our natural ability to assess and act in accordance with our environment rather than by resistance and containment.